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Scene+Heard: ‘Fab Four’ elevate local music
BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser
If you’ve kept up with my posts during the past year, then you’ve read the names Michael Cooper Knapp, Shawn Livingston Moseley, Brandon Apeles, and Kevin Jones before.
I don’t think I have done a singular piece on them in the past, but with a number of big summer shows in the mix and local summer releases on the way, the more I keep delving into who is doing what (i.e. managing, promoting, recording), the more I realize these guys are all working together in some way or another.
Granted, Hawaii’s music scene is very tightly knit — everyone sort of knows everyone, which is honestly the case in most “music cities.” But right now, these four just seem to be right in the middle of it all. Their goal? Raising the quality of music coming from Hawaii to the next level, whether that be through recording or performing.
With a finger on the pulse of local indie artists, Apeles brings the talent, Moseley lends his studio producing expertise as owner of Soul Sound Studio, Jones is the radio guy who books shows at the Road Runner Music Hall and Cooper helps make the magic happen during concerts as a live sound engineer.
Both Apeles and Knapp have also maintained a relationship with local promoter BAMP Project. Knapp’s latest gig as front of house/monitor engineer for Hawaii Pro Sound means that he is doing the sound for most all big shows BAMP puts on. And it’s been a great connection for Apeles, who has booked a large number of local acts as openers for BAMP concerts, giving local audiences a chance to hear new music and local bands a shot at being heard by a larger crowds.
“You can tell the influence these guys have on the local scene by the number of bands (who) are now reaching out about opening slots,” said BAMP’s Phil Pendleton. “These guys are really driving a new movement for the local scene.
Added BAMP’s Aubry Boutin: “Both Brandon and Cooper contribute tireless hours to keep the bands happy and the sound flowing. Concertgoers don’t see the behind the scene work pre- and post-show. While everyone is having fun and relaxing with their friends on the weekends these two are on the scene helping to make sure there are no hiccups. The result is awesome … entertainment and great sound for all to enjoy.”
Knapp came to Hawaii from Syracuse, N.Y. in 2003 to work as a sound engineer at the former Pipeline Cafe. While he said he has “never been in the forefront” when it comes to the concert scene, he always tries to treat Hawaii-based opening bands exactly the same as he would their national touring counterparts.
“I just try and … not sacrifice quality just because they are the ‘local opener’ or ‘support’ act,” he said. “I’ve just always been that guy in the background mixing your band when you played at Pipeline for a local show or fundraiser, or as a support act for some national artist or as you opened for some BAMP concert elsewhere. You may not have met me, but you’ve probably worked with me and just not realized it.
“There are a lot of politics and protocol to concerts and shows about what the headliner gets versus the support act, but that doesn’t mean the opening band doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of local talent in the Honolulu scene and it deserves the same attention as any other, even if resources are limited.”
I ASKED my friend and manager of acts like Intire Project, Erika Elona and Sing the Body a few questions about how they all manage to work together so well. With a desire to open doors for more local indie music to be heard, these guys are making it happen for so many of us indie artists out there.
Sabrina Velazquez: You all offer a unique approach to the music scene which has managed to bring you all together to form a power team for a number of local acts. Can you describe what each of you does and how they relate to one another?
Brandon Apeles: It is usually a case-by-case thing, but sometimes an artist comes into Soul Sound and is recording with Shawn and asks me about getting out to perform live in something other than a bar gig—more of a showcase style. They say they want to play a venue with great sound and to play for people that want to listen. I usually then tell them if you want the best sound anywhere in Hawaii you bring Cooper with you. Then if you want people to show up you need to talk to Kevin about advertising.
It can also go from someone asking Kevin or Cooper where they should record and that artist ending up in Soul Sound. Between the 4 of us I think we have most of the bases covered.
SV: Yeah no kidding. How did it all come together in the first place?
BA: I have known Kevin forever and can’t even really remember how we actually met. The friendship grew stronger through the years and we started working together on more and more business things.
Cooper, I have known of for years because of playing and managing bands that played at Pipeline. I got to work with him a little. However, it’s been working with him through BAMP shows in the last year or so I really got to know him and his talent.
I officially met Shawn at Apartment3 a couple years ago. He came up to me and said we should have lunch and the rest is history.
Funny thing is I think none of this would be happening without Apartment3, where I held a monthly acoustic nights event. Kevin played there and Cooper came to watch and I believe Shawn was there as well. First time we all were in the same room together and it just clicked.
SV: Describe how your connection with BAMP has flourished to what it is today.
BA: I first started working with BAMP when some artists I helped out played random events they helped promote. Then I just loved the shows they were bringing so I would promote the hell out of them on social media and that got the attention of Phil who messaged me thanking me for the help. He would invite me to shows and we would just talk story and the boys noticed I helped out a lot of local bands so they started asking me to suggest local openers for a few shows.
They then realized I actually paid attention and fit the right act with the show and started just trusting me. Since then I have found openers for the Shins, Cat Power, Airborne Toxic Event, Owl City, Gregory Isaacs, Steel Pulse, Switchfoot, Matt Costa and more. I am honored in the trust that Phil, Matty and Aubry have in me. I have always done things because of the music. As far as learning, those three guys are a true inspiration to me and I learn just a little something new from them at every show.
SV: Let’s talk about the local music scene which seems to be growing at an extremely fast pace, both with traditional Hawaiian music and indie/alternative/hip-hop music — more venues, more affordable avenues to record, better management. How has the music scene changed since you all began working together?
BA: I think that since we started working together the local scene sees that you can get on the radio (with Kevin’s Star 101.9 radio show “Unsigned Hi”). You can share the stage with huge artists and have great sound and be treated with respect. Also you can record in a professional studio and have it sound good without breaking the bank and going to the mainland.
SV: Do you share a common goal with one another that you are working toward?
BA: Yes. Just providing the artists with the best we can give them to get them to the next level, whatever that may be,
SV: What project/projects are you most proud of?
BA: The compilation “Alternative Hi” (Mountain Apple Co.) and “Unsigned Hi.” Proving that a major company like Mountain Apple Company does pay attention to a different scene. With Kevin’s efforts on “Unsigned Hi”not only are we getting local original rock music on the radio every Sunday from 7 to 8 p.m. but also some of the songs have made it into regular rotation. It’s a great thing that we are all proud of.
Sabrina Velazquez is a 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed “music nerd” who was born and raised in Honolulu. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Velazquez posts every Monday on The Pulse.